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Memphis Fires Rip Scherer

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Rip Scherer was fired from his job as the University of Memphis head football coach Sunday after completing his sixth season at the school. Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson made the announcement at an 11:30 press conference Monday morning. Scherer will receive the remaining $485,000 for the two-and-a-half years left on his contract, according the Johnson. The total cost of the buyout, including assistants’ salaries and benefits is $1.1 million, Johnson said. The money will come from boosters of the school’s athletic program and no state money will be used, according to the athletic director. “Coach Scherer is one of the classiest individuals I have ever had the opportunity to work with and that made the decision even more difficult,” Johnson said. “The final decision was based on lack of wins over the six-year period. There was nothing else.” Johnson said he wanted to find a replacement as soon as possible. “I think there are three things: someone who has come from a successful program, someone who has been in Division IA either as the head coach or as an assistant, and someone who has recruited in Division IA. I think those are the three areas I am looking at.” The athletic director said he had contacted the first candidate on his list Monday morning before the press conference. He would not name any of the candidates on the list of “a half dozen to a dozen” names. He said any of the current assistants on Scherer’s staff were welcome to apply for the job. “I think it is a pretty good job. Conference USA has made it a better job,” Johnson said. “We have four bowl tie-ins, we have much more exposure than we’ve ever had before, we are about to get a better TV package than we’ve ever had before, we have a higher profile than we’ve ever had before. Internally, I think Rip has left this program better than it was the day he arrived. I think that’s a tribute to Rip and his staff.” “We want to get the best coach we can possibly find. Whoever that is. Vince Lombardi is not coming. Knute Rockne and Bear Bryant are not coming to Memphis,” Johnson said. Johnson said he thought he could get enough money to hire a good coach. Scherer was paid about $240,000 per year, including radio and TV shows. His compensation package was lower than the average salary of C-USA coaches which is about $300,000. Scherer, who took the job in January of 1995, had a record of 22-44 and never enjoyed a winning season at the school. His team lost at Tulane Saturday night 37-14 closing out the season on a five-game losing streak. Memphis finished 4-7 in 2000. Less than 24 hours after the game in New Orleans, Scherer was fired. Scherer met with reporters in the football conference room about 30 minutes after Johnson’s press conference concluded. “It’s been a tough four weeks, it’s been a tough week, and it’s been a tough 24 hours,” Scherer said. “You put your heart and soul into something like we have here, so much of your existence, your family, every waking moment for the last six years. It is frustrating that you couldn’t bring it to fruition. “I don’t blame anyone but myself,” the coach continued. “This is a bottom line in this business and unfortunately that bottom line is strictly wins and losses. Six years in most cases is an equitable amount of time. In the case of this program and where it was . . . this is a tough job. The decision was made by R.C. I don’t agree with it and yet I understand it.” Scherer said his only regret was the way his firing was handled. “I don’t think R.C. was fair to our program, our players, our coaches’ families, our coaches, and me and my family by letting us hang out there for the last four weeks,” he said. The coach said he thought the next coach would have a chance to be successful. “I really think this has a chance to be a turnaround program like a Tulane, an Arkansas, or a Louisville, where someone comes in and is able to have success early. And I hope they do,” Scherer said. “These kids deserve to be successful.” Scherer said his on future is uncertain. “I don’t know what I am going to do. I’ve had some calls from some coaches, I don’t have any job offers,” he said. “My inclination right now is to stay in coaching. I have some career decisions to make. Do I want to go into administration? Do I want to stay in coaching? I am not sure what I want to do yet.” Whatever he decides, he won’t be doing it in Shelby County. “We love this community and yet I think it is time for us to move on,” Scherer said, “and I think it would be in the best interest of me and my family to do that.” Scherer said he had advised his son to transfer, but Scott was planning to stay at the U of M. Scherer endorsed his defensive coordinator for the head-coaching job. “I don’t care what names are bantered around, there is no better candidate for this job than Tommy West,” Scherer said. “The players believe in him. He is a heck of a football coach.” The former coach had one piece of advice on his way out. “Put a $10, $12, $14 million facility over there [on the South Campus]. Put more money in the budget,” he said. “And I am saying this not as a bitter person at all. I am saying do it for the next guy so that you are not sitting here five years or six years from now with the same kind of meeting. That’s the only way this cycle will stop.” (You can write Dennis Freeland at freeland@memphisflyer.com)

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